Washington, Dec 22 (): A senior former military officer who had the highest security clearance and close contact with some of the army’s most powerful figures admitted to have received orders to Sri Lankan army commanders from President Rajapaksa and his brother to kill surrendering Tamils during the final phase of the brutal war.
The claims were made by a career officer who rose to the rank of major general before he fled the country in fear of his life to seek asylum in the United States. This assertion, first of its kind from a highest ranked officer contradicts reports by a recently concluded government-appointed commission. The commission revealed that the military did not intend to target Tamil civilians.
The reports released last week recommended further investigations on allegations of civilian abuse, it said it might have been committed by disobeying soldiers. The recommendation came in the wake of UN’s criticism against the government for deliberately shelling civilian areas and possibly killing tens of thousands of people in the final months.
The Major General said that he was informed that Gotabaya Rajapaksa, the defence secretary and brother of President Mahindra Rajapaksa, passed on “some instructions to a field commander to get rid of those LTTE [Tamil Tiger] cadres [who] are surrendering without adhering to normal procedures”.
These orders, he said, “should come from either the secretary of the defence, with the knowledge of the president involved. He also has to be kept informed. The commanders could not undertake such decisions.”
He said that to his knowledge shortly after becoming defence secretary in 2005 Mr Rajapaksa sanctioned the creation of a “hit squad” known for operating out of a white van to remove suspected LTTE members or collaborators off the streets of the capital Colombo.
Yolanda Foster, the Sri Lanka researcher for Amnesty International, said: “We doubt Sri Lanka’s will and ability to bring the perpetrators to justice, given the scale of the allegations and the potential that serving members of the Sri Lankan government may be implicated.”
The testimony from the senior officer was first obtained by The International, an investigative website based in the US. It backed up various other allegations of illegal conduct by the authorities.
A spokesman for the Sri Lankan high commission in London said: “We categorically deny these malicious allegations.”